Feb. 9, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia's track and field teams split up in three different directions during their final regular season meets before the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships arrive.
Distance coach Jeff Pigg will take five men and five women to Seattle, Wash., for the Husky Classic. Five Bulldog sprinters will be returning to Fayetteville, Ark., for the Tyson Invitational while 29 student-athletes in a variety of short sprints and field events are scheduled to make the short tip to the Tiger Paw Invitational in Clemson, S.C.
The Lady Bulldogs surged to 13th in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll after their performance at the Virginia Tech Elite meet. The Bulldog men, who have four individuals ranked in the country's top 10, remain at 22nd in the poll.
"We are training hard and getting better each month," said head coach Wayne Norton. "Last week was our best showing so far which means we are on an upward trend. We need to continue that. This week we divide and go in different directions to get the best results possible. Overall this is a big weekend for us."
Senior Morgan VanGorder, sophomores Stella Christoforou, Ashley Shiver and Megan Malasarte and freshman Carly Hamilton will join seniors Aaron Evans and Matt Cleaver, junior Daniel Grass and Brett Richardson and sophomore Brandon Lord in a variety of distance events in Washington. VanGorder will start the action for Georgia at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday with the 5000-meter run.
Evans recorded the fastest time in school history in the 800 (1:48.07) during his last trip to Seattle in 2011.
"I fully expect the distance runners who will be traveling to Washington to run personal bests and be on the NCAA qualifying list," Norton said. "The purpose of the long trip is to go and run fast and then come back and run smart at the SEC."
Sprints coach Jon Stuart and Norton will accompany senior Torrin Lawrence, junior Eric Harris, sophomore Waymon Storey and freshmen Chris Foster, who was this week's SEC Men's Freshman of the Week, and Drew Branch to the Tyson meet. Lawrence, Foster and Branch will compete in the 400 at 3:45 p.m. Lawrence is the three-time defending champion in the 400 at the meet.
"Our 400 and 200 runners will be in Arkansas to run on the track the produced the world record a few years back," said Norton, who watched Lawrence capture the 2010 NCAA 400 title on the Razorbacks' track. "It is an ideal facility for running fast 200 and 400-meter races. The goal is to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
"Washington's track is a 300-meter oval which is good for distance running and Arkansas' track is a nice banked oval which is good for the 400 meters. Running those events on a flat 200-meter track is not as advantageous as doing so on the tracks at Washington and Arkansas."
Freshman Tynia Gaither and junior Benita Kurtz open on the track for Georgia at the Clemson meet in the 60 prelims at 5 p.m. on Friday. Senior Carin Walker starts the field events with the women's long jump at 4 p.m.
"We have similar goals for Clemson as we do at the other two meets but we will be focusing on events that will not be negatively affected by being on the flat track that Clemson has," Norton explained. "The sprints run on the straightaway and the field events are not affected."
With the SEC Indoor Championships arriving in Lexington, Ky., on February 24-26, Georgia has 20 team members in one of the top eight positions to score at the conference meet. Freshman Morgann Leleux, who was named the SEC Women's Field Athlete of the Week following her performance at Virginia Tech, is second in the NCAA and SEC after clearing a career-best and NCAA automatic qualifying mark of 14 feet, 4 ½ inches, which is second in the school record books.
Senior Cory Holman, who has Georgia's other NCAA automatic qualifying mark this season, is ranked fourth in the league and fifth in the nation in the heptathlon after piling up a school record 5,809 points at the Razorback Invitational. Both Leleux and Holman are continuing their training with no more meets until SECs.
Also of note, Lawrence, who has the second fastest 200 time (21.12) and the fourth fastest 400 time (46.89) in the SEC this season, is returning to a track in Fayetteville where he has had immense success. He not only won a national crown, but also clocked the fourth (45.03), fifth (45.10) and seventh (45.23) fastest collegiate indoor 400 times in history.
Live results for the meets and recaps from each day's action will be located at georgiadogs.com.